In Her Own Words: How One Attorney Changed My LifeFebruary 28th, 2022
Share This Story
By Janice Johnson, National Legal Advocate at Her Song
More than 90 percent of human trafficking victims emerge from a trafficking situation with a criminal record. This presents significant barriers to housing, jobs and sustaining a normal life in the recovery process and beyond.
Human Trafficking is a complex problem. One that does not have one answer as a solution. Not one person or organization is going to end trafficking alone. But there is one attorney who changed my life.
Before I came to Her Song, I endured over a decade of exploitation before I was identified.
Even then, I was criminalized and sent to prison as a direct result of my trafficking. No one looked past my physical traits of a drug addict or noticed the signs of my victimization. No one offered me help and no one advocated for me. But each time, an encounter with law enforcement, a state attorney, a public defender, a judge, EMTs, doctors, and nurses, I was never seen as a victim…just a criminal. This added to the guilt and shame I already felt. To have someone look at you with disgust and not compassion. Like I was a waste of a life… it just solidified what I already believed about myself.
In 2017, I was introduced to Brent Woody from the Justice Restoration Center who has dedicated his practice to the expungement of human trafficking survivors’ criminal records. After a lengthy fight, I was released five years early and into the program at Her Song. He later petitioned the court to expunge my record and it was granted. For the first time in my life at Her Song, I was surrounded by endless support, encouragement, love, and acceptance. All the lies I believed about myself and others were shattered. I had people rooting for me, believing in me, and fighting for me. For once, I felt like I had gained control of my life and was finally going to be someone! I attended college, studying law, and maintained a 4.0 GPA. I was eventually hired at a law firm and discovered a passion for legislation and legal advocacy for all lives affected by human trafficking. I excelled at my studies and after 2.5 years, I transitioned out of the program at Her Song and purchased my own home. A year after that, I got married and started a family.
Today, I am the National Legal Advocate for Her Song. I assist the ladies coming into our program navigate the legal system, provide them access to resources and attorneys who can help them with their legal issues and eventually pursue expungement. I want others to have this same opportunity and support to live past a life of their sexual exploitation. To know that there is help for them to heal from their trafficking. Everyday I get to witness the beautiful transformation of a once shattered, hopeless woman chasing her dreams and achieving a life she never knew was possible. There are so many areas that trafficking destroys in the lives of survivors. One being an undeserved criminal record. As a community, we can intercept and help facilitate survivors exiting a life of exploitation. I encourage you to join this fight.
*Pictured above: Brent Woody with Janice Johnson presenting at a legal workshop in Chattanooga in January 2022.